BIG COUNTRY BOYS STATISTICAL LEADERS (Scoring, rebounds, assists and steals through Jan. 16)

Each Thursday at 7 p.m., Big Country Preps will publish area boys basketball statistical leaders.

This database will be continually updated for our subscribers throughout the remainder of the season, using only those statistics submitted by area coaches.

Teams that do not submit their statistics in a given week will not be listed when our stats are posted, but will be added to the lists below as they are received in the coming days. 

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BIG COUNTRY GIRLS STATISTICAL LEADERS (Scoring, rebounds, assists and steals through Jan. 16)

Each Thursday at 7 p.m., Big Country Preps will publish area girls basketball statistical leaders.

This database will be continually updated for our subscribers throughout the remainder of the season, using only those statistics submitted by area coaches.

Teams that do not submit their statistics in a given week will not be listed when our stats are posted, but will be added to the lists below as they are received in the coming days. 

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FEATURE: AHS post Watts growing into enormous potential for Eagles

As a sophomore on varsity last season, Nathan Watts showed flashes of the type of player he could be for the Abilene High boys basketball team and coach Justin Reese. But a knee injury midway through district play ended his season prematurely.

The extra time off only fueled the Eagles’ big man, who spent the offseason working hard to improve his physical condition and expand his skill set to be ready for a larger role this year.

That work has paid off in a major way and can be seen in Watts’ performance, which has earned him a place among the area’s top post players. And his presence and production, more importantly, have helped AHS build a 17-8 record that has featured a 4-0 start to District 3-6A action.

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BCP Podcast No. 77: Evan Daniel discuss Jim Ned basketball with coach Eric Phelps

Since taking over the Jim Ned boys basketball program, coach Eric Phelps has put his stamp on a program that has long been one of the Big Country’s best.

Earlier this week, Phelps joined Big Country Preps’ Evan Ren and Daniel Youngblood to discuss this year’s team, the pressure of leading one of the area’s most successful programs and his time as a Texas Tech student manager under Bobby Knight for this week’s Capital Farm Credit Wednesday Night Podcast.

Also in this episode, Evan and Daniel discuss the retirement announcement of longtime Wylie football coach Hugh Sandifer as well as the other prominent Big Country coaches who hung up their whistles this school year.

LOCAL HOOPS ROUNDUP: AHS girls pick up first district win, Wylie boys top Graham

The Abilene High girls basketball team picked up its first district win Tuesday, building a 22-11 halftime lead and holding on over the final two quarters to beat Haltom City Haltom 48-44 at Eagle Gym.

AHS, now 12-15 overall, got 20 points from Trakenya (KK) Roberson and seven apiece from Syncere Reed and Justine Martinez in improving to 1-4 in District 3-6A play.

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GAME STORY: Abilene High boys extend district win streak against Haltom

The Abilene High boys basketball team controlled Haltom City Haltom from start to finish Tuesday, using a 15-8 run through the first quarter to take control early in a 52-39 win at Eagle Gym.

Jalen McGee scored 15 points to lead AHS, while Nathan Watts and Jackson Stevens each added 10 as the Eagles improved to 17-8 on the season and remained perfect in District 3-6A play at 4-0.

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GAME STORY: De Leon gets much-needed win over Hico in overtime thriller

DE LEON — Two of the Big Country’s most-improved girls teams collided on Tuesday in a District 10-2A matchup that saw De Leon escape with a 34-32 win over Hico in overtime. 

Taylor Mahan scored eight points, Chloe Stovall, Kenadi McGrath and Coral Sparger had seven each and Baylee Burrow added six to provide a balanced scoring effort for De Leon (15-11, 1-1), which needed the win to avoid an 0-2 league start. 

Hico, which got a game-high 14 points from Lauryl Stegall and nine from Luna Wilson, dropped to 19-4 and 1-1.  The Lady Tigers missed multiple shots down the stretch that could have been difference makers, only to see De Leon execute when it needed to. 

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GAME STORY: Fast start fuels Cooper girls to home rout of Wylie

Coming off losses in their respective district openers on Friday, the Cooper and Wylie girls basketball teams entered their crosstown matchup Tuesday at Cougar Gym needing a win to avoid an 0-2 start to league play.

That urgency was evident for the Lady Cougars, who scored the game’s first seven points and never trailed in routing the Lady Bulldogs 69-40. 

The win, which improved Cooper to 19-8 overall and 1-1 in District 4-5A action, provided a nice rebound performance from last week’s 50-45 loss at Aledo and was the product, coach Arsenio Geter said, of an important discussion during Monday’s practice.

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BIG COUNTRY PREPS PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Breckenridge senior takes the top spot

Not only are the Breckenridge Buckaroos off to a flying start at 17-3, but senior guard Aaryn Medina is drawing plenty of attention as well. 

Our Big Country Preps Player of the Week lit up both Boyd (64-28) and Millsap (72-57) to lead the Buckaroos to a district sweep last week, with an eye-popping 35-point scoring average for the two games. 

Along the way, he collected a total of 20 rebounds, eight assists and nine steals to keep the Buckaroos unbeaten in district play at 3-0. 

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BREAKING: Big Country FCA All-Star Festival coaches announced

The coaches for the annual Big Country Fellowship of Christian Athletes were announced on Monday morning with the revelation that for the first time the event will include a three-day golf tournament in Eastland.

The inaugural golf tournament will run from Sunday, June 7, through Tuesday, June 9, on the Kingdom Course of the Solid Rock Camp near Lake Leon.

The seventh annual baseball and softball games will be played on June 12 at Angelo State University and then the festival winds up with a smorgasbord of events on June 13.

The eighth annual men’s and 12th annual women’s basketball games will be at the Brownwood Coliseum, the eighth annual volleyball game at Wylie High School’s Bulldog Gym and then the week-long event culminates for the 21st time at Shotwell Stadium with the Myrle Greathouse All-Star Football Classic. Continue reading “BREAKING: Big Country FCA All-Star Festival coaches announced”

DANIEL YOUNGBLOOD: Wylie’s Sandifer a coaching legend, better man

When I arrived in Abilene in June 2007, less than a month after graduating from Baylor, my experience with the city was confined to my two-day interview with the Reporter-News.

The only things I knew about the Wylie football program I’d soon be covering for the newspaper were those I’d been told — that the Bulldogs were really good and that coach Hugh Sandifer was an icon in the south Abilene community.

It was only after being here a little while that I realized why those things were — and that those two seemingly interconnected facts stood largely independent of each other.

Sandifer, who announced Friday that he’ll be ending his 41-year tenure at Wylie when he retires at the end of this school year, is and will be remembered as a great coach. But it’s not his 285 career wins (the 17th highest total in Texas high school football history), four state championship game appearances or 2004 title run with current Redskins quarterback Case Keenum that will define his legendary career.

It is, instead, the integrity with which he operated and the way he treated and impacted people from his role as a mentor — characteristics widely celebrated in the social media response to Friday’s news and qualities to which I, personally, can attest.

Continue reading “DANIEL YOUNGBLOOD: Wylie’s Sandifer a coaching legend, better man”

LOCAL HOOPS ROUNDUP: Abilene High boys stay perfect in district with win at Central

SAN ANGELO — The Abilene High boys basketball team used a 21-point second quarter to erase a first-quarter deficit and took complete control after halftime in a 53-35 win over San Angelo Central on Friday.

Trailing 10-8 after one period, the Eagles outscored the Bobcats 38-20 over the middle two quarters to improve to 16-8 on the year and 3-0 in District 3-6A play.

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GAME STORY: Jim Ned boys rally late to top Ballinger, complete doubleheader sweep

TUSCOLA — One of the best Ballinger boys teams in years wanted to test itself with a difficult non-district road trip to Tucsola on Friday.

While in the end the Bearcats may have proven themselves capable against a regional power, it was the Jim Ned Indians who walked away with the win — rallying for a difficult 42-36 victory in the nightcap of a varsity doubleheader at Bill Thornton Arena.

The Jim Ned girls opened the evening with a 47-24 win in the opener, but it was Ford and the Jim Ned boys who stole the show.

Ford exploded for 27 points, including 13 in the fourth quarter to lead Jim Ned (16-5), which rallied from a 34-27 deficit with a 15-2 run over the final 3:30 of play. 

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GAME STORY: Freshman leads Rider past Lady Bulldogs, Frenship too much for Wylie boys

Freshman forward Jalynn Bristow came within three points of matching Wylie’s team scoring total Friday in leading the Wichita Falls Rider girls basketball team to a 48-30 road win over the Lady Bulldogs in the District 4-5A opener for both teams.

Bristow, one of the top freshmen in the state, scored 27 points on 12 made field goals to put the Lady Raiders in control early and for good at Bulldog Gym.

Behind the freshman phenom, who set a school-record with 42 points earlier this season against Odessa Permian, Rider built a 26-13 halftime lead and added to it in each of the final two quarters to improve to 22-1 on the season.

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UPDATED: Longtime Wylie football coach Hugh Sandifer announces retirement

Longtime Wylie football coach Hugh Sandifer announced his retirement Friday, ending a 41-year tenure at the only school at which he’s ever coached.

Starting his career as an assistant out of Abilene Christian University and holding roles across multiple sports in his early years, Sandifer took over the Wylie football program in 1986 and, over the next decade, built the Bulldogs into a regional power.

He leaves high school football with a 285-127-4 overall record, including 27 playoff berths, four state championship game appearances and a title in 2004. But his on-field performance only tells part of the story, said Wylie Superintendent Joey Light, who had known before Friday that this announcement was coming.

Continue reading “UPDATED: Longtime Wylie football coach Hugh Sandifer announces retirement”

Evan Ren’s 2019 Big Country True Grit Team: The toughest players in the Big Country!

We all know a football player who almost never misses any practice time and practically lives in the weight room. He’s always early to arrive and late to leave. He’s coachable, but seldom needs direction because he always pays attention. 

You know who I’m talking about.

The guy who sets a good example for young players. The guy who never complains and, first and foremost, is tough mentally and physically. He may not be the best player on a team (though some of them are). But he’s definitely the guy who gets the most out of the talent he’s given. 

Welcome to the 2019 “True Grit” team — the one place in the Big Country where guys who fall into this category are recognized for it.

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BCP Podcast No. 76: Evan, Daniel discuss All-Big Country Preps football teams, area hoops

After a two-week holiday break, Big Country Preps’ Evan Ren and Daniel Youngblood return to the Capital Farm Credit Wednesday Night Podcast to discuss the All-Big Country Preps football teams, released Wednesday.

Also in this episode, Evan and Daniel speak briefly on the Big Country hoops scene.

Continue to check back at BigCountryPreps.com each Wednesday night at 7 p.m. when Evan and Dan discuss the current happenings in Big Country High School sports — often with an interesting sports figure from around the area.

You can also peruse our BCP Podcast archive, which features dozens of our previous shows with prominent coaches and Big Country media fixtures. 

Inquiries regarding these podcasts may be directed to Evan Ren at Evan.Ren@BigCountryPreps.com. 

If you have a suggested topic of conversation or a recommended guest, don’t hesitate to contact us! 

BCP PODCAST ARCHIVE 

BIG COUNTRY PREPS FACEBOOK PAGE 

BIG COUNTRY PREPS TWITTER PAGE 

LOCAL HOOPS ROUNDUP: Cooper girls cruise past Sweetwater, Coogs top Graham

SWEETWATER — Trailing Sweetwater 19-17 after one quarter Tuesday, the Cooper girls basketball team bounced back with an 18-2 through the second period and cruised from there to a 62-34 nondistrict victory over the Lady Mustangs.

Jennika Willis scored 15 points, while Kaleigha Kemp and Dazz Larkins added 11 and 10 points, respectively, to help the Lady Cougars improve to 18-7 on the year.

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GAME STORY: Ballinger sweeps Brady in District 4-3A play

BALLINGER — The Ballinger basketball teams had no issues in sweeping Brady on Tuesday night at Joe A. Forester Gymnasium.

The Lady Bearcats came away with a 60-28 win to remain tied for the district lead with Wall, while the boys team jumped out to a fast start and never looked back on its way to a 56-30 win.

Continue reading “GAME STORY: Ballinger sweeps Brady in District 4-3A play”

GAME STORY: Abilene High boys outlast Bell in District 3-6A thriller

The Abilene High boys basketball team improved to 2-0 in District 3-6A play Tuesday with another narrow win, following Friday’s 57-56 win at North Richland Hills Richland with a 60-55 home victory over Hurst Bell.

Trailing by a point after three quarters, the Eagles were able to grab a lead early in the final period and seal the victory at the free-throw line to improve to 15-8 on the year.

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BIG COUNTRY PREPS PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Brownwood’s Thompson snags first award of 2020

As the Brownwood Lady Lady Lions gain momentum as a team, their offensive leader has remained steady throughout an up-and-down 13-9 season and current five-game winning streak. 

Senior forward Matyah Thompson, has been a rock of consistency thus far, but most recently her efforts placed her among the area’s elite — so much so that she has garnered our first Big Country Preps Player of the Week award of 2020. 

That’s saying a lot, considering this week’s award is the only accolade we give over the span of two weeks, to cover games played over the Christmas break. And as you’ll see, there were several great efforts from players around the area. 

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FEATURE: Former Jim Ned standout Meagan Mitchell trying to right the De Leon ship

DE LEON — While her married name of Meagan Mitchell may not ring a bell to Big Country hoops fans, her maiden name, Meagan O’Dell, will be remembered by many who were paying attention. 

Mitchell, a former all-state selection at Jim Ned who went on to play collegiately at Tarleton State, was one of the top players in Tuscola under former coach Jim Avery, which included a trip to state in 2012, where she made the all-tournament team. 

Now at age 25, Mitchell finds herself rebuilding a long-struggling De Leon team, using the same principles she learned under Avery and under former Tarleton State coach Ronnie Hearne. 

It took a little while, but those concepts are beginning to catch on at DHS, and it’s translating into wins.

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GAME STORY: Merkel sweeps Stanton on special night at MHS

MERKEL — The 1000-point barrier is a celebrated milestone that few high school players achieve. So when Merkel senior Kayde Pursley topped the very rare 1,500-point plateau last week against Brownfield, those close to the program made up their minds to do something special in her return game on Friday at MHS. 

Following a 59-7 blowout of Stanton, an announcement of Pursley’s accomplishment was read over the PA system, after which she was presented with a banner showing her climb through the milestones, along with a plaque.  The brief ceremony preceded the boys game which saw Merkel hold off a Stanton rally for a 52-39 win to complete a doubleheader sweep.  

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LOCAL HOOPS ROUNDUP: Abilene High boys open district with win, Cooper girls top Odessa High

NORTH RICHLAND HILLS — The Abilene High boys basketball team opened District 3-6A play with a 57-56 win over North Richland Hills Richland on Friday, outscoring the Rebels 16-13 in the third quarter to break a 31-all tie before hanging on in the final period for the victory.

Paced by Nathan Watts, whose 22 points led all scorers, the Eagles edged Richland 26-25 over the final two quarters to improve to 14-8 overall and 1-0 in league action.

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FEATURE: Years of hard work paying off for Hartfield, Breckenridge boys

For high school coaches, patience is not only a virtue, it’s a necessity.

In a vocation centered around the development of young people both in and out of the competitive arena, it can take time for things to come together as hoped, planned or envisioned. And that progression isn’t always linear.

But it’s in the realization of a player or team’s potential that most coaches find their greatest reward — a fact to which fourth-year Breckenridge boys basketball coach Colby Hartfield can attest.

Sitting at 13-3 after a second-place finish at the Eula Holiday Classic on Dec. 27-28, Hartfield’s Buckaroos are off to one of the best starts of any small-school team in the Big Country. And they’re doing it with most of the same players that went 17-16 a year ago — a handful of which were part of a 6-21 squad in Hartfield’s first season.

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EVAN REN: Big Country Preps Top 10 Stories for 2019

It’s never easy picking the top 10 stories of the year for the Big Country Preps coverage area. 

Stretching from Forsan in the west to Brock in the east and from San Saba in the south to Munday in the north, there are literally thousands of athletes producing countless stories to choose from. 

Pairing all of that down to just 10 examples forces one to leave out several notable options on a yearly basis. The upside of all this is that the area is never short on quality stories to reflect on. 

So as we say goodbye to the year 2019, we salute those local athletes and coaches who produced yet another memorable year for the entire area. 

Without further ado, let’s take a look at the top stories from last year, in descending order:

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FEATURE: Gritty Lady Loboes picking up where they left off despite graduation losses

After losing three key seniors from last year’s 31-4 squad, the Cisco girls basketball team was expected by some to take a significant step backward this season.

Those folks clearly underestimated the leadership and grit of the 2019-20 Lady Loboes.

While the losses of district offensive MVP Leigh Anne Montell, district defensive MVP Katelyn Bird and first-team all-district pick Lauren Underwood have certainly been felt, they haven’t flung Cisco into the rebuilding phase some viewed as inevitable.

In fact, after a 2-0 start to District 6-3A play and a run to the championship game of the Eula Holiday Classic over the weekend, the Lady Loboes are looking like a threat once again in a stacked Region I-3A field.

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FEATURE: Running hoops tournaments can be a hassle, but the reward can benefit an entire town

ANSON — It could be said that a well-run high school basketball tournament is an event where the organizers aren’t noticed at all. One that operates so smoothly that the only thing people have to worry about is basketball. 

Behind the scenes, however, is a busy contingent of volunteers, working to see that all the square pegs find the square holes. It’s not as easy as it looks, and the level of difficulty can be even higher for lesser-known events.

Last week, for example, multiple tournaments were played throughout Texas, including large events in Eula and Brownwood. But under the radar, a nine-year-old event in Anson — The Lions Club Holiday Tournament — battled its way through some last-minute changes to secure another successful conclusion. 

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